Tokenisation vs Encryption: which one is better?

When it comes to data protection, be aware of the most functional technology already available

Written by Vaultree Team

April, 14 2023 in Encryption

Investing in data privacy and highly effective cybersecurity technologies is essential for organisations to comply with regulations and keep their sensitive data safe. Besides the financial consequences of a data breach, non-compliance leads to loss of customer trust and decreased market share. Most businesses can’t afford these legal, financial and reputational losses, so prevention is the way in cybersecurity. 

Functional data protection and regulatory compliance result in competitive advantage, customer trust and market value. Safe and productive operations that will make your customers happy and your business sustainable in the long run. 


What is Tokenisation? 


Tokenisation is a technique that replaces sensitive data with non-sensitive placeholders known as tokens. It ensures that sensitive data, such as credit card numbers, are not stored in a readable format. Instead, the data is replaced with a random token. 

It used to be directly connected to a database to retrieve the data through this stored relationship. Currently, most solutions use vaultless tokenisation, meaning they no longer require databases. Still, they continue to be up to 11 times slower than AES (using the F11 algorithm), according to a Fortanix analysis. 


Limitations of tokenisation


No turning back:  Tokenisation is irreversible. Once sensitive data is replaced with a token, you cannot retrieve the original data. It makes it impossible to perform any computations or analytics that require the original data. 

Vulnerabilities:  If the mapping between the token and the original data is not protected correctly, your data is exposed. Attackers could use this mapping to reverse engineer sensitive data.

Security Gaps and Attacks:  Vulnerabilities lead to attacks such as token hijacking or token replay. In a token hijacking attack, an attacker intercepts a token and uses it to make unauthorised purchases. Token hijacking can occur if the token is not protected or transmitted over an insecure network. In a token replay attack, an attacker intercepts a token and uses it to make additional purchases without the cardholder’s knowledge. 

Complexity: Tokenisation can increase the complexity of payment processing systems, as it requires a separate system to manage the tokens. The process can add steps and potential points of failure: if the tokenisation system fails, the payment processing system fails, resulting in delayed or failed transactions and financial losses. 

Luckily, there is hope on the horizon. The limitations of tokenisation and anonymisation have led to the development of new techniques for data security, such as data-in-use encryption, which can overcome these limitations and provide a more secure and privacy-preserving alternative for companies. 



Encryption is embedded almost everywhere in our daily lives, even if we are unaware of it. To give a few examples, it is like a secret agent working non-stop to protect your data from being exposed on messenger apps and online banking.  

Although the concept of encryption is not new, traditional encryption methods have become increasingly complex.

Cryptography uses algorithms and the latest in math and computer science to transform sensitive data into something that only those with the correct “key” can decipher. It’s the tool that guarantees that, even if there is an attack on your servers and computers, or even if, by human error, private information leaks, it will not be readable by third parties. In other words, useless for criminals interested in getting confidential company information to extort people and organisations. 

Traditional approaches have limitations that can prevent companies from fully utilising their data, mostly involving complexity and a tradeoff between security and performance. Encryption solutions were barely used to protect data, and mostly only at rest. They used to require specialised knowledge and were complex, slow and time-consuming to deploy. 

However, now you can (and should!) safeguard data at all times, at rest, in transit, and IN USE. That way you can analyse encrypted data without compromising security and protect your organisation from the consequences of sensitive data falling into the wrong hands.  That's when Fully Functional Data-In-Use Encryption comes into place. 


Fully Functional Data-In-Use Encryption: Data is always encrypted, even when it is in use


In a major cryptographic breakthrough, Vaultree has developed the world’s first Fully Functional Data-In-Use Encryption solution that solves the industry’s fundamental security issue: persistent data encryption, even in the event of a leak. 

You can search and compute ubiquitous data at scale, without ever having to surrender encryption keys or decrypt server-side. If a leak occurs, Vaultree’s Data-In-Use Encryption persists, rendering the data unusable to bad actors: encrypted data is useless for criminals. Sensitive information is protected, mitigating a data breach's tremendous financial, cyber, legal, reputational, and business risk. 

Integrating Vaultree into existing database technologies is seamless, requiring no technology or platform changes. Once encrypted using Vaultree, data is always kept encrypted, even when you need to use it. Our solution is suitable for any organisation, particularly for those who work with highly sensitive data and in regulated industries with large quantities of data; for example, finance, insurance, health, pharma, energy, telecommunications, and many others, and of course those who need to comply with requirements such as GDPR, LGPD, HIPAA, PCI-DSS. 

Here's a comparison between Tokenisation vs Fully Functional Data-In-Use Encryption: 


With cybercrime on the rise and massive data leaks reaching people and businesses every day, that will bring a new level of protection to enterprises by rendering breaches and leaks powerless and irrelevant globally. That’s our vision of an encrypted tomorrow, a world where cybercriminals do not easily misuse people’s sensitive data.

Find out more about how it works.  

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